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Samantha Daly

How to Survive a Hostage or Kidnapping Situation

How to Survive a Hostage or Kidnapping Situation

Everyone thinks it can’t happen to them…until it does. It can happen anywhere – walking home, leaving your apartment, sightseeing in a foreign city, walking through a parking garage – one second you’re daydreaming about watching your favorite tv show, and the next you’re the victim of a kidnapping. There are many awareness skills you can practice that make you a less likely kidnapping victim, but if you ever find yourself in the scary situation of being held against your will, here are the things you need to know to maximize your chances of survival:

Act Fast.

Your window for stopping an abduction is in the first few seconds. You must do everything you can to fight off your assailant. Fight. Scream. Yell. Run. Once you are restrained in a vehicle, your chance of survival decreases significantly. So, do everything in your power to get away from your assailant immediately. Cause a scene however possible and don’t be afraid to fight dirty, but the first chance you get, run as fast and far as you can. If you’ve caused a scene, and gotten away, there is a good likelihood they won’t pursue you further.

If your initial resistance fails and you are restrained, your strategy needs to change. Remember that the first 24 hours are the most important – this is when you are easiest to find and are still in your best physical and mental state.

Pay Attention.

Once you’re in a vehicle, you will likely be blindfolded and you may be beaten, drugged, or forced into the car trunk. If drugs are administered, don’t resist. In almost all instances, they are sedation drugs to keep you quiet, but it is always better to be sedated and conscious than beaten into unconsciousness.

If you are in the trunk of a car made after 2001, there will be a light up release lever you can pull to escape. If the car is old, or the escape latch has been removed you have two options. You can pull up the carpet in the back corners, find the taillight and use something to puncture it, knocking it out. Then you can stick your arm out of it – a tell-tale sign to anyone else on the road to call the police. Even if you can’t reach an arm out, there is a chance of a cop pulling the driver over for driving with a broken taillight. Then you yell and scream and bang on anything you can find to alert them of your presence. Additionally, most cars have a tire jack under the carpet of the trunk and if you have enough room to maneuver, you can use the jack to force the trunk open.

While being transported, don’t struggle. Calm down and focus on the route being taken. Try to track the amount of time between points and remember the left and right-hand turns. Don’t be discouraged if you lose track of some turns; anything you can remember will help determine where you were being held.

Also think about what else you have learned. How many abductors are there? Are they armed? Can you hear them talking? What are they saying? Was your abduction spur of the moment or preplanned?

Putting together as much information as you can to understand what is going on will help calm you down and focus on actively saving yourself. It is time to adopt your survivalist mindset – it can save your life.

Form a Bond.

Despite the situation, you should take strides to appear dignified and build a relationship with your kidnapper. Don’t insult or disagree with them. Do your best to appear non-threatening and compliant. Be empathetic. Ask for small favors: a glass of water, something to eat, a book to read. Simple things like this will give you a shared experience of helping rather than hurting.

Tell them stories about your family, your hobbies, your pets, your favorite movies, your favorite places to vacation – anything that will make them view you as “human.” It will be harder for them to harm you if you establish a bond with them. It’s hard to know what will hit home with people so keep talking. If you cover enough topics, you just might find one that resonates with your kidnapper.

Serial killer Edmund Kemper claims to have once released a victim who saw a bottle of pills in his car and commented that her father took the same ones. A woman who was kidnapped by Ted Bundy during his killing spree said she became nervous during the car ride and couldn’t stop talking. Eventually he told her it was her lucky day, stopped the car, and let her go.

Even if they don’t release you, talking is a good way to engage and pass the time as you think of ways to potentially escape while gathering more information about your situation.

Escape or Wait.

Whether you escape or wait is up to you. The best strategy is always dependent on the specific situation.

If you have been kidnapped for ransom, you are worth more to them alive than dead, and waiting it out may be your best option if escape seems risky. It is true that honesty is the best policy, even with kidnappers. Don’t lie about your income. Lowballing your worth can endanger your life because you may not be worth keeping around, and highballing it can make it impossible for your family and negotiators to pay. Weigh the chances of a successful escape attempt before taking any action.

If you’ve been abducted by a sexual predator or for military or political purposes, your life is at risk. Be alert for signs that your abductor plans to kill you. These include brutal treatment, release of other hostages but not you, and the revealing of their identities having previously hidden them. In these instances, you must try to escape, regardless of the risks.

Formulate plans A, B, and C before attempting an escape. You’re going to need backup options if things go south. Studying the routines of your kidnappers and gathering intel about as much of your surroundings as possible will help. If you are restrained, you are going to need an opportunity when you are left alone to free yourself. If you’re restrained in zip ties, see our article here on how to break free.

Hopefully you never find yourself in a kidnapping or hostage situation, but if you do, these tips will help you be prepared and maximize your chances of survival. Talk to your family about these strategies, as planning ahead can save their lives in an emergency.

Do you know someone who has escaped a similar scenario? Share their stories and strategies to help other Battlboxers on our Facebook page. Together we can stay safe!!
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